FEW TELEVISION EVENTS capture international attention like the annual Academy Awards ceremony. It seems the whole world is enraptured on Oscar night, but that feeling of excitement — so fleeting — can be crushed painfully by a bad awards party.
For many years now, I’ve hosted or been a guest at awards parties that have ranged from jubilant to pleasant to downright weird and uncomfortable. And while I still have no say about who the Academy chooses to host each year (even so, I’m begging you, AMPAS: no more James Franco), I’ve learned a few things that every Oscar party host needs to know.
1. Know your shit.
For every deserved nomination, there’s someone or some movie that’s been snubbed, and you can bet one of your guests wants to talk about it. One of the most awkward situations that develops during the ceremony is when someone brings up another film…and no one knows what the hell they’re talking about.
You, the host, need to have your nominations-and-snubs list on hand to back that person up, or to keep yourself from falling behind. The more you’ve seen, the more valid your opinions become, too. It’s hard to see every nominated movie, but not too tough to read the articles that pour in for months leading up to the Oscars. Take 10 minutes before guests arrive to get caught up.
2. The party starts on the Red Carpet.
“When should I arrive?” “What time is the ceremony?” “How long does it last?” These questions are by far the most common that your Oscar party invitees will ask. People need to budget their time wisely, and some have multiple party-invites to juggle.
The safest bet is to shoot half an hour to an hour before the ceremony-proper with some food and drink; that way, you see your friends in and out before the ceremony, no one’s getting up just as the big opening number starts, and those more taken than others with the celebrities have a few moments of personal time.
Turn on any channel with coverage of the Red Carpet, and you’re set for the early birds and the stragglers.
3. Potluck or pizza – it’s all the same.
As the host, you’re going to be asked by each of your guests if they should bring something, and your inclination might be to say, “Maybe plates? Or nothing, no big deal.” This is a rookie mistake — just because they’re your guests doesn’t mean admission is free.
Feel comfortable asking for a little dish, just as long as that person can be relied on to arrive before the party gets going. And if you find most people are strapped for cash or are a bit lazy, don’t freak out — the best perk of being a host is that the guests will eat ANYTHING you put in front of them. No one minds a good pizza except the lactose-intolerants — and in that case, everyone can chip in for some Thai.
Just make sure you place that order well in advance of the ceremony, since there will probably be a few other Oscar parties in dire need of their Papa John’s fixes.
4. It’s only an “Oscar party” if everyone leaves as soon as they end.
Watching the Academy Awards is like playing a game of Monopoly with your family: seems like a good idea at first, things get a little boring but still pleasant midway, and everyone wants to kill everyone else by the end. Once that Best Picture award gets announced, you’ve got five minutes of great, excited discussion before things start to get rowdy.
If you can, calmly direct people towards dessert, a nice walk in the brisk night air, or full-on exile from your place. I find that asking someone at a potluck when they want their dishes back sends a clear signal: “GTFO, as it were, while I wash your salad bowl.”
5. Your mom’s going to call. Don’t ignore it – put it on speakerphone.
Even if your mom is hosting a party of her own, experience has shown me that she wants to hear what you thought about the winners as soon as they’ve won. Walking out of the room to answer, ignoring the call, or being too harsh with her are all embarrassing party fouls.
Don’t be afraid to answer it and give her a few thoughts on the latest Argo-level Academy screwup; after all, you’re the host of your own party, and that position comes with some authority. If you’re lucky, the call with mom will end with a few words of love, and the guests will admire your magnanimity, charm, and filial love.
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